So earlier today, in a thread about why it's great that Eleven Madison Park is going plant-based, I said being vegan comes at a cost in the food you eat.

That made some people I like mad, but I think it's important, and I want to defend it.

So: 🧵
Let me first be clear about where I’m coming from: I’ve been vegetarian for more than a decade, vegan (with a bit of cheese here and there) for about 7 years.

Reducing animal suffering is one of my core political commitments. I write and podcast about it all the time.
That’s why I was excited to see Eleven Madison Park going plant-based, which is the context for that tweet. The more restaurants and chefs and companies working on plant-based food, the better plant-based food will get.
Some people read me as saying any vegetarian food is intrinsically less delicious than any food with meat. That's silly.

But that’s not what I wrote: I wrote that *being* a vegetarian comes at a cost in the everyday deliciousness of what you eat. And it does.
This is important to admit because it's a key reason why most people don't sustain being vegetarian, or vegan, for very long.

Lots of people try it, but they fall out, because the world is built to make it hard.…
You’re routinely confined to one or two items on restaurant menus, and they’re often bad. You go to a dinner party and you can eat some side dishes. And that’s to say nothing of your options in airports, at buffets, etc.
My colleague @jbouie suggests this is the American diet. But it’s true in most countries whose cuisines I know well. Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, basically all of Europe, China, Japan — being vegetarian cuts you off from a lot of good food, and lots of restaurants have no options.
Again, there are great vegetarian *dishes* in these cuisines, and in most cuisines. But *being* a full-time vegetarian in these places can be pretty hard.
People will sometimes say: What about Indian food?

And I agree: Indian vegetarian food is amazing! And in India, meat consumption is rising:…
I think there’s sometimes a tendency among vegetarians to wish this away, to say that people are wrong in this preference, to insist that if we only taught everyone to cook vegetables better, they’d convert.
Becoming better at vegetarian cooking is great! I like @JoeYonan's cookbooks, and I'm a good cook myself.

But it doesn't solve the built environment or cultural difficulties of being a vegetarian, and there's lots of meat dishes people love with no easy veg replacement.
As an example, my favorite food, when I was an omnivore, was sushi. I live in SF, a place with unusually amazing vegan sushi. I will tell you all day how great Cha Ya and Shizen are.

But I still miss the taste of sushi made with fish. A lot.
I used to make pork shoulder tacos. I've had every vegan alternative I can find. I've played around with replacements, from weird mushrooms to jackfruit.

There are good vegan tacos! But I can't replace pork shoulder, and I don't know what's gained by pretending otherwise.
The core problem for reducing animal suffering is that people like meat. A lot. The more money they make, the more of it they want. And while certain religions have been able to blunt that, basically nothing else has.

Meat consumption just goes up and up, year after year.
This is why I’ve come to the view that you need to work with people’s taste for meat rather than against it. It’s why I believe in funding alt proteins, to accelerate plant and cell-based meats that are indistinguishable from, or better than, meat.…
I hope we can make it basically seamless to be vegan. Lots of food is great without meat. And for the food that isn't, we can invent plant or cell-based meats.

But until we do, I don't think it's useful to pretend that this isn't a problem.
And so here's my other hot take, since I'm annoying people I'm usually allied with today.

I think it was a huge, ongoing mistake to merge a diet with an ethical framework. It's too high a cost of entry into a political movement.
We don't insist that you stop taking plane flights in order to care about climate change. Worrying about the global poor doesn't mean no personal luxuries.

But we've told people that caring about animals means going vegan in a world that's set up to make veganism hard.
And what happens to a lot of people is that they care, they try to go vegan, they fail on the diet, and then they fall out of the political commitment.

But we need lots more people to hold that political commitment, even if they can't hold to veganism!
If you tell people they're wrong about their love for meat, or they won't miss it, you'll lose them. People know what they like. Look at the meat consumption data. Look at what restaurants put on their menus.
But people who like meat don't want animals to unduly suffer, which they do on factory farms (regenerative and small-scale farming is another issue). They don't want unchecked global warming. There's a bigger coalition here for political change than dietary change.
But if you make the division meat eaters vs vegetarians or vegans who're telling them they should just give up meat, you lose.

So that's my other hope: a movement that is about animal and environmental and human welfare, not about people's individual dietary choices.
And I think one place to start there is admitting that being vegan can be hard, that it feels like a loss to a lot of people, and partly for those reasons, individuals choosing that diet can't be our main pathway to ending industrial animal agriculture.

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More from @ezraklein

3 May
I love this. It'll be so powerful for a restaurant like Eleven Madison Park to show what they can do with plants. And it's a constraint that'll lead to such wild creativity, too.…
There is no doubt that being veg is less delicious. People who argue otherwise are kidding themselves. But a lot of that is because there are fewer options on menus, so much less money driving creativity. The more plant-based eaters and chefs there are, the tastier it'll get.
My one weird take in this space — which doesn't apply to Eleven Madison Park, as they're operating as a status symbol and a unique experience — is I think it's better for restaurants to go 80% plant-based than to eliminate meat entirely.
Read 7 tweets
30 Apr
The key part of this conversation with Chuck Schumer, to me, is the way his thinking on the median voter has changed.…
He used to think they were skeptical of big government, resentful that they paid taxes and it helped everyone but them.

That pushed Democrats to target programs tightly, and keep price tags down. Clinton era reflects this.
Now he thinks these voters, "Joe and Eileen Bailey," just want government to help them, and they don't care who else it helps. And so the political path for Democrats is to do anything and everything so these voters feeling helped by the government, right now.
Read 4 tweets
26 Apr
I think the path followed by electric cars over the past decade are a good way of thinking about this stupid debate about meat, and about the policy that will get us to a good outcome here.
Biden isn't going to ban meat.

He's so not going to ban meat and will be so afraid of being caricatured otherwise that I worry Democrats will err on the wrong side of this and ignore all emissions from animal agriculture, which would be devastating for climate goals.
So let's talk about electric cars. Go back a decade and there's a similar culture war. Real 'Muricans drive Hummers and weeny liberals drive Priuses and Volts and if Democrats win they're going to take your cool cars.
Read 17 tweets
23 Apr
I love this @AnnieLowrey jeremiad against the term "low-skill jobs." Those jobs aren't low-skill. They're low-wage, and calling them low-skill is a way of blaming often exploited workers for inequality and unemployment.…
The idea that a 23-year-old at McKinsey is a high-skill worker while a home healthcare aide with 30 years of experience is low-skill is risible.

The latter may be paid more, but they're not more skilled. And the language of skills recasts that pay gap as natural, even virtuous.
As Annie writes, the point isn't that we shouldn't learn different skills as the economy changes. The point is the language of low and high-skilled jobs obscures the realities of power and policy operating behind this debate.
Read 5 tweets
21 Apr
There's some interesting ideas in here, but the underlying phenomena seems much more clearly explained by the sharp rise in age and educational polarization, not an asymmetry in how much liberals and conservatives care about politics.…
*Why* there's been such a sharp rise in age and educational polarization is important, and I don't think there's one dominant explanation. But once that polarization happens, it's going to drive institutions sharply to whichever side is dominating among the young and educated.
Take age. Republicans win retirees. Democrats win the young, by huge margins. Corporations and culture makers worry a lot more the young, who'll consume for decades and whose patterns aren't yet set, then seniors. That alone explains a lot of institutional tilt.
Read 4 tweets
20 Apr
I'm an anxious person. Always have been.

It's a weird, frustrating way to live: There is so much to wonder at or truly fear, and instead I can't stop ruminating over some nonsense from 3 years ago, or worrying about something far in the future.
I know I have better things to be thinking about. I know I should spend the time in gratitude for all that I have. Or I should be worrying about the right problems.

But as the Buddhists say: my thoughts think themselves. So I'm anxious AND annoyed at myself for it.
And then came the pandemic. Reality was objectively terrifying, and many of us were trapped inside, severed from social connection and routine, with acres of time to fret.

It was a bad mix. I know a lot of people who didn't have an anxiety problem before, but do now.
Read 4 tweets

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